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Confrontational cure is 'last resort'

THE Bryn Melyn centre, the focus of the latest storm, is an anonymous-looking farmhouse in the North Wales countryside, writes Ian MacKinnon.

But it deals with some of the most difficult young offenders who are just a step away from local authority secure accommodation or prison.

The establishment was founded in 1985 by Brendan McNutt, who remains its principal, and until this year it worked as a residential community farm dealing with up to 12 problem children at a time. Local authorities pay pounds 1,800 a week to send children for treatment. The offenders stay with their primary carers in the area.

It is only after a three- month assessment, when the offender's strengths and weaknesses have been established, that centre staff decide whether a trip abroad, considered the most difficult part of the confrontational therapy, would be beneficial.

Fred Davies, Gloucestershire's deputy director of social services, said the centre was the last resort to make the young people face up to their criminal behaviour.

'Unfortunately, the places Bryn Melyn has chosen are those with hot climates that most people associate with holidays. But they are places from which they cannot abscond when the going gets tough. There's nowhere to run,' he said.

Stephen Elliott, director of the project, added: 'We are making a real attempt to get these people to change rather than write them off, put them in penal institutions and wait for them to come out and commit more offences.'